A Belfast businesswoman based in Benidorm has warned that the Spanish coronavirus lockdown could destroy almost half of expat-owned businesses in the sunshine resort.
Georgina Doran, who runs the popular Church Bar in Albir and a successful estate agency, will be ordered to close her pub for at least 15 days as the government there declares a state of emergency. Under the decree being finalised for tomorrow, people would only be allowed out for food, to the pharmacy, hospital or work, or emergencies.
With 193 deaths and 6,250 infections, Spain is the worst-hit country in Europe after Italy.
Non-essential travel has also been banned, with flights from the UK to Spain yesterday forced to turn around while in mid-air.
St Patrick's Day celebrations - which would have been a huge source of income for expat bar owners in resorts like Benidorm - are now cancelled, plunging some businesses into financial crisis.
Contemplating her own situation, west Belfast native Georgina, who has been in Spain over a decade, described Benidorm as a "ghost town" and warned 40% of businesses could go under.
She said: "At the Church we rely on events like St Patrick's to get through quieter months, and for most bars in Spain this period with the Cheltenham races and St Patrick's Day is the opening of the season.
"We've had to send all our staff home as well as a band called The City, who we flew in from Belfast for a week of gigging."
Pubs and restaurants which had stocked up on food and drink will now lose much of it to waste as not all of it can be frozen, adding to their financial woes.
Everyone is tense and nervous awaiting advice. Many bars and restaurants won't reopen as they rely on daily income just to stay aliveGeorgina Doran
Georgina explained: "We have spent thousands on food, drink, St Patrick's merchandise, not to mention flights for the band and villa hire. That is on top of staff costs and rent, with Benidorm now effectively a ghost town for the near future."
Georgina's weekend was spent meeting with lawyers to see if she could run a takeaway service from her pub in an effort to prevent some stock from going to waste.
"My lawyers couldn't tell me anything because this was as new to them as it is to us," admitted the mum-of-one.
"Everyone is tense and nervous awaiting advice. Many bars and restaurants won't reopen as they rely on daily income just to stay alive."
Five Jet2 flights travelling to Spain from UK airports yesterday turned around in mid-air as the airline announced it was cancelling all flights to the country from the UK due to the deteriorating situation.
Jet2 said the health and safety of its customers was its top priority and its decision was fuelled by the government closing bars, restaurants and shops.
And easyJet said flights between the UK and Spain are currently "unaffected", but that there was some disruption to those flights because of a shortage of air traffic controllers.
Travel company TUI has cancelled holidays booked to Spain this weekend.
British Airways earlier warned it would need to ground flights "like never before" and lay off staff in response to the coronavirus. Ryanair told staff they might be forced to take leave from Monday.
France last night said it would shut most shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from midnight. Exceptions on the shop ban will include food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.
US President Donald Trump yesterday revealed that the UK and Ireland would be added to a list of countries hit by a US travel ban over coronavirus, as he declared the pandemic a national emergency.
They were exempt when he announced earlier in the week he would not allow people from 26 European nations in the Schengen area to come into America for 30 days. The ban will go into effect on Monday night.